tv Book Discussion CSPAN January 17, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm EST
you've reveal at its heart a straightforward and timeless human question, and that question is who are we the quests to chart and understand the path that led us to this moment is a species can want to no where we came from is also exactly what has shaped much of the smithsonian work from the very beginning. for bill my science is the compass that provides a clear direction among that often complex path. when you take on the challenge of the public debate he went into this nationally televised event with an arsenal of symbol of the course of a long career.
and while almost all reports of the debate noted he scored a for evolution, it turned out that the debate was just beginning. it it was a knew phase of his work as an educator and it revealed that a serious educator and a serious scientists can make a difference for all of us. to consider creationism have a place in the science classroom for the future of our greater world as well led him to write this book. i have to say i looked at the questions. this book has also led him here to us tonight where you
we will talk about why this topic is so important to him and why science and science education all the keys to bringing us closer to knowing who we are. joining him in what i know we will be a lively conversation is joe palko npr science correspondent and a moderator for other smithsonian associate events including the behind the science interview series. please join me in welcoming bill my. [applause] >> so nice. give it up. [applause]
while. while. >> and there are a lot of people here, too. you guys know him? that is pretty good. i have to say this because it is bad. i have been jealous. >> hang on. i have to see this because it is really bad. you are the science guy, guy and there is nothing that rhymes with bulk up. i've not been able to come up with anything. doesn't work. >> this would be a good crowd sourced question. >> where going to talk for a while about your book and what i am curious about is how this whole thing came to be. they say why don't you go down to kentucky and have a debate question couple of things about that opening, sitting quietly, small problem from a.
you probably know him. key davidson. along time ago i started the column in san francisco chronicle. chronicle. and so one thing led to another. very nice. i talked to the guy on the phone and said key davidson the science guy doesn't rhyme. what's you mean like zero, well. that is really good. true story. story. so -- [laughter] the answer is in genesis people which is near as i can tell is to people. and this other guy contacted me to my agent several times
over the course of the year and it is the result of big think. i gotten up at five am new york time which was 2:00 a.m. california time. they asked me about creationism. knock yourself out. we don't want to have our kids raised to believe the earth is somehow 6,000 years old. that had 7 million views. after that after that they contacted me and we agreed essentially a sentence is creationism a viable model? i thought it would be like a college gig the thing has
just gone crazy. i am working on a book about climate change and the opportunities and sustainability and energy in this and that. my publisher at saint martin's said it have to do it. the 1st week of march i started on this thing, just handed it out. >> really fast. >> i hope you all buy it. >> they make wonderful gifts. >> i hope so. >> and you can put your computer terminal on them to get just the right height. >> you kind of dating yourself.
and i thought, they we will hire like a real sketches. these are my drawings. i'm sorry. >> you signed them. >> on one condition. a guy came up to me in the tavern seattle washington and asked me my real name. i said it is william. this is an microbrews -- this was a new thing. why did you change it? so those guys pay me.
i gave away every penny, i gave money money to louisville science center. in the cincinnati science center. this place, the creation thing is across the river from ohio. things change. you cross the river. >> genies got has been fighting the good fight for decades with this organization trying to track
every state legislature county, school board, city school board that attempts to sneak creation science or intelligent design or what you want to call it into a a curriculum more into a textbook or into something and i'm sure she does other things as well, but she tries to stop it and go out and find people who we will go to the legislatures. appmack but that is what i am interested in the difference between what she is doing and what you were expecting at the museum with these guys. because you have some leverage over election officials or school board members because they're going to be put in front of the voters. these guys have a.of view, and you asked a great question. is there anything i can say that would change your mind. by the way i did not ask that question.
that's the essence of it. i met her recently. tracy modi. she runs a website called friendly atheist. what if anything would change her mind, and as the essence of the whole thing. the big bang, the microwave radiation. and of course, as course, as you may recall if you watch this, he said nothing, nothing to change his mind. imagine if you are on a a jury, accused of something in these guys are on the
jury evidence doesn't matter to me. i'm good. it's really an extraordinary.of view, and it would not matter except you know these guys can do -- it's a free country, as we said. they have a complete or thorough curriculum where they and document young people. it is a biggie over them. dvds and workbooks and quizzes and look just like science tests, the lecture city, amps, volts mitochondria. at the bottom. and as i say, it is not in anyone's best interest to raise a generation of science students that cannot reason, that has no creek quick of thinking skill. that is where they cross the line. >> the question then to me is, if you have that faith
can you have faith and be a critical thinker or doesn't pull you out if you believe in something that is supernatural? >> supernatural, let me say i am sure each and every one of us believes in something that we have no evidence for don't you think? like fish like me. something that we believe that there is no evidence. >> the mets will win win the world series again. >> yeah. [laughter] [applause] so i grew up in washington. i was a senator spent. i know for a store careers are some orioles fancier. sperry troubling.
but they used to come to washington and play with like seven guys. they had one outfielder and he would be smoking a cigarette. i i just hope they do well next year. all right. so we were somewhere. >> believing in something he can't really prove. i will keep you going. >> the nationals are going to win. >> well, we are just about out of time. we all believe in something, and that's fine as long as you keep it separate from the process of science and critical thinking. so i know -- for example, example, some of my best friends are catholic and get a lot of community, a lot of strength from being -- from sharing his experience and
i understand that but that does not mean the earth is 6000 years old it just it just can't be and that is great. but that is not an extraordinary thing. it is news i guess. it seems to me the catholic church has had an enlightened view of many things for decades now. no, but i mean, i couple of centuries when they were not so great a stuff. [laughter] so as long as we keep it separate it is all good. >> but evolution is just one of the places where public opinion for religious reasons are not seems to disagree with scientific evidence. you know climate change her vaccinations are even genetically modified organisms.
but what but what is your role as a science educator or hubris to change that? >> well, i am working as hard as i can to change the world. [laughter] but i guess what i talk i talk about when you talk about grownups to have made up their minds about creationism must say i don't know all creation is go as far as 6000 years there are some numbers that throwdown. but grownups are not going to change their minds. the people who are supposed as a young age of a hard time changing their minds. minds. it is not exactly like it, but it is like trying to
quit smoking. the 1st time you here a smoking cigarettes are bad for you your not going to quit. it takes chip away for years or months, years, decades before somebody we will change his or her mind about something that they are brought up in. i respect how difficult it is to change your mind. on the on the other hand, it is important. for example, they are striving to climate change is not a problem as part of the package and that is you know, ron. you just don't want that as a citizen, a citizen, people denying everything that we can see in nature. so -- >> you have an audience of well over 2,000 people here. what is their role? >> with regard to everything there is one thing that i
think we can all do command that is talk about climate change. i think right now i am coming to believe that one of our biggest already the biggest problem about climate change as it is too far away too easy to set aside, rationalize but if we were all talking about it all the time i think you would get in the public conversation in a more enlightened fashion change the world. so everybody let me ask you all the talk with your friends about climate change. when i was getting out of the, the cabdriver claimed that that his body was under 5 feet of snow. >> seven. >> seven feet. and it is is november, not even thanksgiving. coincidence? it could be. and tying anyone, especially a cold
weather event to climate change is quite difficult. but in the example, on the example this one example of this one drivers hearsay is consistent with climate models because as lake erie gets a little bit warmer more moisture ends up in the air above it. that is consistent. i will state categorically that certainteed events have been tied explicitly to climate change. he even syntaxes and so on in recent years. it is just such an odd thing. when you travel the world. most of you have been to more places than i have, but when you talk to civilized people everywhere else they are very concerned about climate change and there is no one running around in those countries that are 6,000 years old. what i like is that we were talking about this backstage, the engineers who are building the buildings for the future are not part of the discussion is it real
or not. they are building buildings with higher sea level in mind. it seems as though there is a disconnect between the reality on the ground and people elsewhere. >> well, the classic if you want to get serious, the military, the us military has all kinds of plans run climate change. some of it if you read the language is dispassionate to the.of being creepy. well, since their will be more droughts and wars, we may need more weapons. that's good. thanks for that tip. and so it is troubling that everyone is in on it except so many of us are not. we were talking about climate change everyday just part of the everyday conversation
the way people used to talk about racism and people in the skeptic community, i've involve the skeptics in the center for scientific inquiry, we admire the lesbian gay bisexual transsexual community because they have been really successful, people have been really successful in drawing attention to their issues so that people just kind of accepted. okay. it's part of a world. the same way if we were talking about climate change enough i think we would be doing something about it quex's climate change more important that people get that and forget about evolution because it is okay, we can live with their crazy ideas? >> to me it is of a piece.
it is all one thing. there is the tree in sweden that is believed to be over 9500 years old. you can go to a park in california, and the in california, and the bristlecone pines that are over 6,000 years old. so dude you cannot be serious. but here is the crazy thing, he we will say in the fund this argument difficult to have the people, but he we will say how do you know. well tree rings. you can say those tree rings the foreman of 50 years we have been looking at this trio thinking about rings okay, maybe. you don't no how long it took for those of the rings to form. >> yes, we do. >> well, you do.
>> i know what you mean. >> a 1st question is how to prepare for the debate. will call because of the electric engine that that the kids use, the national center for science education heard about this for found out about it and contacted me. a really thoughtful guy. we talked on the phone and i decided this is the major leagues. i was in a plane. i flew to berkeley. to their office. we all sat at that lunch and went over to st. arguments. i have i have to tell you guys, it was one. i read the book my my old books and looked at modern stuff online. i estimated that their are at least 16 million species today but it is probably 80. you start counting viruses.
whatever god is into, how does it go? 350,000 at least and i was 34 years ago. then i said this is arithmetic. 16 billion species now and you have 4,000 years when 11 new species a day not 11 new animals or plants, live in the species. and i did this. how many i scored a 680,000 layers the snow cycles every year like it's not working out. and so that was, frankly frankly, fun. but the key was, there were a couple of things.
the the subject for the national center for science education is diligent. they pointed out the ark and i had never really read much about the wyoming, a wooden ship built in the early 19 hundreds it sank. wood is fantastic material but when you have a ship that is football field long, i mean, it is it is sad the thing sank losing all hands eventually. there is a lesson to be learned. so that is what to follow -- those sort of fundamental cool, critical thinking basic for straightforward science and math ideas. so at the start of the talk
can put up a slide where he said some scientists say we should not be debating these guys. do you remember that? the question, a lot of scientists feel that way. are they right? as we say you may be right. when i get letters from people who are strident about something you may be right. but you may be wrong. >> on the one hand. click sorry. there is a deep concern that by debating these guys you look bad the science educator will look bad, and that is risk. my understanding is in the past dwayne gish three students in the 19 '80s was notorious for this. they called it the gish gallop. left to refute this crazy
idea. idea. so what i brought to the party was 1st of all i spent a lot of time on television and sometime as an actor. the thing that will really go badly as if you lose your cool if you forget yourself. the other thing i just really disagreed with my colleagues you want to go 2nd. they all want you to go 1st. no. twenty-one go 1st and throw the scientist often do a tailspin trying to debunk all this crap -- stuff the issues. [laughter] you want to go 2nd. the audience will backtalk that debate, not there in the room.
i want to go to the lions den, into the theater with that guy is the most comfortable. my audience was you all online. so thank you for your support. these fundamental ideas i really do disagree with my colleagues on. anecdotally the may have crossed a big line. testify to your christian faith. which isn't the whole noah's ark isn't that old testament? am not a big bubble guy. i'm bible guy. i'm told. isn't that before jesus got the gig? [laughter] [applause] >> i'm just as science correspondent. >> the other thing you can't be homosexual, you can't begin.
you you can do that if you are a hobby lobby or but not if you're going to take tax dollars. so they bring in tourists to the commonwealth of kentucky and therefore feel that they are entitled to certain tax breaks. they may have crossed the line. we will see how that goes. i think that -- feel that doing that debate raised everyone's awareness. i'm not sure we would have filled the theater with you all with the awareness of the issue, creationism versus climate change. >> how many people watched the? [applause] >> of love you guys. for the rest of you all, it is just too fascinating. >> i was traveling in scotland with my son.
i am in bed it's not a clock. they are up until two or three in the morning. wake up. what wake up. what are you doing? watching this interesting debate on the internet. the internet it is used to have it. it was just cool. that conversation. so the scientific discourse breaks down. in other words, what i'm thinking about sometimes scientists try to are to answer questions that they don't have an answer for. >> have never done that. >> that there is a good reason that embryonic stem cell research is important and we are not really killing embryos when we do it so you don't have to
worry about it and some people just cannot buy that argument. embryonic stem cells the extraordinary claim and i guess i'm changing the question will be extraordinary claim is that life begins at conception fertilization. most eggs that are fertilized find their way into the ecosystem by other means. they become -- not to put too fine a. they become sewage. and so it is not clear. i mean, should we be arresting every woman he was a fertilized egg? what about the guys? all that sperm and you blew it. [laughter] so you are all under arrest. >> this is the next phase. if you can come somebody
every time you shave your killing cells. i could go all the way. the serious.here if it is not at conception of fertilization when is it? >> you have to guess really obviously. you have to stick. you are a guy. i mean the cause-and-effect. and i did mention here that as troubling as it is your parents did have sex. at least once.
>> possibly with each other. [laughter] >> does anybody remember reading? it's. but the crazy thing was the guy she was having sex with was her husband. that's just wild. >> when is a person-to-person? this is a great question. if if the egg is implanted in a year or more then where are we. the cells are undifferentiated, there is an argument that they are
not a a person yet. okay. all right. the problem arose years ago. you guys remember dolly the sheikh on the 1st clone mammal. i did not make this up. they use the memory cell because from a microscopic.of view they are big large diameter. and so because of dolly parton they called it call it dolly cheek. i am not making that up. don't be shooting the messenger here. but but really what they did mechanically, they take these extraordinarily fine pipettes and poke them into the cell and replaced that dna with dna from somewhere else. and the offspring are still frolicking in the scottish ales.
so people were wondering, can you take stem cells and do whatever you want? i have just got to ask everybody, we spend enormous resources on artificial hips and knees and people get injured in battle and car wrecks. would it be unethical to induce their bodies to grow there own hips and knees and so on? and i remind us all that fertilized eggs human_thrown away all the time, discarded or processed. so there is an ethical question and i just really want us all to think about it. my big deal, i will insist a fertilized a fertilized egg is not a person. it's not going to vote. [applause] i mean pause or or no applause, scientifically
mechanically, biomedical and it is not a person yet. it is not clear that we should be passing laws based on that. and nobody would even know about all this without microscopes and science and that is the irony. it is these areas where science can only take you so far. click science can show you that a lot of people have had it wrong so far when you literally look more closely you literally discover something. >> so i was interested in your book genetically modified organisms and whether those are bad, good, indifferent, like them, don't like them there has
been a lot of promise companies that they were going to feed the world by creating crops resistant to pesticides for ad genes that would give more vitamins. >> supposed to provide vitamin a to african kids so they would not have these i diseases. >> this is good. >> well, the potential -- and we have tried it with some success, but there has been mixed reviews. i called the chapter what the gmf, gina motif of genetically modified food, so our story begins with let's say george washington the bread wheat. he would shake the pollen from one we stock onto the eggs of another and he did. he was an agriculturalist
with resources. and so that makes perfect sense because it seems like it could happen in nature, we they have this problem in the us with the european corn grower. thank you. so these people found a way to take the genes from a virus this bacterium that lives in the soil below: plants and put it in the corn and then it crystallizes and the corn dies. and so it seemed like a great thing. >> is that good or bad? i have been eating it for years. i'm fine.
and so then as you may no the genetic modifiers were able to make corn and soybeans that are resistant to this extraordinary pesticide. round up is the big brand. it kills freaking everything but not the corn and soybean plant that have been modified. and so it was also killing milkweed. if if you are a monarch butterfly milkweed pollen is the best. so why accidentally killing the milkweed everybody was deeply concerned with killing off a monarch butterflies. apparently we were but not to the extent of the panic, concern, but but not the big effect. but what if it had been? and so i i just remind us all we have enough food in the world to feed everybody.
we just can't distribute it. we also have just this weird problem in the united states we have now -- malnourished fat people. or just not managing things properly. and this has economic costs. i big thing that i want everyone to consider is the ecosystem. we can know with extraordinaire precision what happens to any plan anything you modify but you can't know exactly what's going to happen to the ecosystem. you can do pretty well, but well but no one saw the pollen blowing into the other guys feel. and so there is just a lot of controversy because of these gray areas. i want to go slowly on that.
the golden rice seemed like a cool idea but does not change the world. if you want to invest, clean water and engineering challenge. it is a management problem, political problem, and international relations problem. venture capitol, everything. clean water. engineers chemists if you can find a way to desalinate water you can get rich. you would change the world. >> we have a lot of questions. you brought up george washington. i would like to ask a question. running for president?
[applause] >> it is sobering to think. every other person you meet photo for the other guy. do you no how complicated it is? i mean every day day the stuff is coming at you. and now we have another war in syria. very reasonable that it was kind of the result of climate change. we kind of sweep it under the political rug. and california in the civilized world the developed world i mean.
there's a lot of stuff there. you recognize this. >> is a question. we have got a lot of them. what do you think about trying to genetically re-create extinct species? >> that would be cool. in moderation. >> one i would really like to bring back see cal. 1870 something i think we we got the last one today. a marine mammal akin to the floridian manatee. the saltwater animal lived in the bering sea largely and apparently because of
the aspect ratio was the result of myths about mermaids. so that 1 i would love to see. i see. i would love to get the dodo bird back. i mention these two because they are recent. they might be technically possible to bring them back. i think the ecosystem could tolerate it, but come on. if you have a toronto source, that would just be cool. if anyone is going to make jurassic park don't use amphibians, you probably want to use birds. everybody is going to have feathers. it's a recent discovery. discovery. >> excellent. this is from jimmy age 11. >> i was 11 for a while. [laughter] >> how long?
>> all the way around the sun. >> when and how did you get into science? did anyone inspire you? >> jimmy everybody inspired me. i grew up grew up in the city and tell the story often enough. i remember just watching to the.where i was i was convinced i was seeing the same become and go. they are all girls by the way. once in a while you will see a boy, very seldom. to me is just like tiny wings. the seed body. how can you do that? stuff pollen and fly around like that. and my older brother would deliver the "washington post". i later became a paperboy.
it said the bumblebee cannot fly. i remember thinking, would not have expressed in this way, are you high? that these are flying. and even then i realized not everything grown-ups tell you is going to be right. and i got stunned by a bee, and that was a drag. i mean, you're crying, your leg is swelling. my mom put ammonia on it and it felt better. the formic acid neutralized. accepting approach on whatever we are doing their. and my brother had a lionel go for chemistry set back whatever dangers and cool command he made a money in
my hand and i have to no this, i this, i have to no what is going on. i will just tell you in the back of the book -- keep one for yourself. but i have a list of acknowledgments of my older brothers, very influential all the teachers that were just a huge influence on me. [applause] is been more time with teachers than you do with your parents most of the school year. and so we need people to teach. so joseph. >> this is from joseph. >> with a flood -- >> you have to ask the question.
>> jimmy. >> i am a fortunate guy. >> with the flood of information from the internet, internet, what is the best way for society to articulate or discriminate factual information from false? that is one of the problems. these things look the same. >> you could, of course, call me. >> did you want to give them your number? >> no, i'm good. here is the thing joseph back in my day when i was young we went to the library and look things up, next line source, by the way encyclopaedia britannica. the information in those books was in general very good very accurate. if you look for abraham lincoln's birthday would be in there, and it would be
right. now they going to find stuff when he was a vampire, reincarnated. so the skill we need now is not just the look to look things up. that is the good old days. you have to have the skill to sort through it. but i guarantee you that by having in your case millions of sources of information you we will get better more accurate answers to almost any question than anything i could've done in my time. so the skill that we need now is sorting through it. you have to develop that is a critical thinker as, as a scientific person, and develop the skill to sift through that. in my day we had to develop the skill to find it in the 1st place. i give you another example
my grandfather was an organic chemist. he could blow his own glass something they all had to learn to do. chemists don't do that now. he can do can draw. a software that does chemistry for you. balancing equation. and then also i went to engineering school with a slide rule. it is cool and fun but the vanguard rocket mothers were slide rules. we used to have races. that is how geeky we were.
it is not a skill you really need. need. they need to be able to shift information quickly. >> here is sabrina's question something that has amaze you today. >> today as opposed to yesterday? >> unclear about whether she meant today. >> here is what freaks me out every day for a much we can think, and i'm not kidding we are made he probably sat through this a few times we times, we are made of this stuff, the dust of exploding stars. and it has gravity and it all came together and we have a son elian on this planet, and planet, has some other plans, on the * college was cool. [applause] very cool. and so we are made of that material that dust.
so you and i are at least one way that the universe knows itself. that is astonishing. there is a responsibility. does the universe expect something of me? i don't know. but it does get to me every day. it's a cool question. >> along those lines, what scientific accomplishment do you dearly hope to see in your lifetime? >> better battery. >> and not just different not talking about just for my phone. if we had an excellent way to store electricity it would change the world. suppose under this building
were enormous vats of something and so the sun shines all day. he would have went turbines and there are five times as much wind energy in north dakota as we need in north america. if we had a better battery i would love to see that. and a way to desalinate water. a way to not have too much water evaporate from farm fields, that would be really good. >> go to mars. >> go to mars? what do you want to do there? to know the state motto of
california? anybody? eureka, i found it. these european guys come over the hill over the sierra nevada mountains and orange trees are like weeds and the same and come up sacramento river like this. eventually this. eventually they find that the rocks are made of gold. the rocks are gold. eureka. okay. if you go to mars it's not like that. [laughter] am telling telling you. you open the door, you can't even breathe. unless you are at the equator on a summer day it is 20 below celsius at least twenty below here, for he
will here and colder than that here, the atmosphere is so thin, just a couple meters. and so if you really think it's cool to go to mars in their pioneer and settle and set up camp and live off the land, just go to antarctica. [laughter] and not kidding. don't mess with me. i know. none of. none of the shoreline of the penguins are jumping around. no. he got to the dry valleys is not snow arraigned in over a century and just to play along take all the skill it takes you need for two years and see if you think it's really for you. i want to go to mars. go to mars. if i'm coming back not kidding, and i'll just say again to everybody and the
ceo of the planetary society now we advocate just to drop the name i had him for astronomy when i was in college, clerical error on there part. i was not his best student or anything. i joined the planetary society in 1980 when disco was giving way to knew wave or whatever. the important work of sid vicious. i have been a member all the time. something happened. yield the grass is on the board. one of the inventors of xm radio.
we advocate for planetary science because -- i left the room and came back and was ceo. i don't no what happened exactly. him on the payroll now. we advocate for planetary expiration because it is only one and a a half, not even want to have playing dollars year. it's a line item within an as a line item and it changes the world. if we were to find evidence of life on mars or stranger still something so live on mars or if we could fly through these plugs which are believed to be spewing out of europa twice as much seawater is the earth maybe there's something alive in the ocean water never change the world and it would be like to thought it would not be done by one person. it would be done by all of us. it would be fantastic.
>> perfect. i was going to say were done. >> and no water on mars. >> were done? >> well, let me tell you this part of tonight's entertainment is finished. entertainment is finished. as the great answers. thank you for your questions. they're going to let bill go off stage and do whatever he does for five minutes while they reset the stage and then he we will sign every book personally. i figure what, 2000 people here, people here, how fast can you sign? it may take a while clicks okay. >> that's what they told me. >> all right. did we get through all the questions? really? anyway, thank you for those questions. thank you all very much. >> because they here all night. i was told we have to get off.
the blog watch times as did 15. >> below watch, an older reference. >> i figured. >> i figured i am not talking to them and talking to you. you know, captain cook at your watch he could've gone everywhere without all that trouble. >> it would not have been so great because this times itself to the clock in colorado that sends out a signal. it was working then. >> you notice that. >> thank you. >> thank you also much. [applause] >> we will see you in a few minutes. thank you. thank you. thank you. [applause] >> you're watching book tv on teewun with top